|Irish Coffee: Shaq bound for New York||04.21.11 at 11:24 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
After Wednesday’s hullabaloo over a report that the Celtics aren’t expecting Shaquille O’Neal back for the NBA Playoffs — which coach Doc Rivers refuted faster than Rajon Rondo ran a layup drill against Toney Douglas – I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing updates about Shaq.
But there’s a slightly new wrinkle to the Shaq drama.
Following Celtics practice on Wednesday, Rivers told reporters, “If you see him on the trip, that means he’s really close.” Well, in an appearance on Boston radio station KISS 108′s morning radio show Thursday morning, Shaq’s live-in girlfriend — Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander — admitted she and Shaq would indeed be traveling to New York on Thursday.
“Yes, he will be back,” Alexander said during the appearance. “I promise. He’s getting better. A few more days, but he’ll be back. Hopefully, the team can keep going with New York and keep finishing. … We’re going up [to New York] today, so we’ll see.”
Rivers ruled Shaq out for Game 3 on Friday but left the possibility for Sunday’s Game 4 on the table. Now, I’m not saying you should put a ton of stock in what “Hoopz” says, but it’s at least worth noting that the Big Shamrock is bound for the Big Apple on the same day the rest of his Celtics teammates will be traveling to New York City.
|Carmelo Anthony channels Bernard King, and why the Celtics should pay attention to history||04.20.11 at 7:24 pm ET|
It’s becoming fairly obvious that if Carmelo Anthony doesn’t carry the Knicks, this series will be over in four hard-fought games.
The Knicks have two very banged up stars in Chauncey Billups and Amar’e Stoudemire, both of whom are very questionable for Friday’s Game 3 at Madison Square Garden as the Celtics lead the series, 2-0, and need just two more wins to advance to the Eastern Conference semis.
The thing is Anthony almost DID do it by himself in Game 2 Tuesday. He scored 42 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. But that wasn’t the first time a Knicks star put the team on his back and carried them.
All Knicks fans either remember – or have been reminded of – captain Willis Reed in Game 7 limping onto the court at Madison Square Garden, inspiring his team to a NBA title-clinching win over the Lakers in 1970.
But the more appropriate and obvious comparison is to No. 30 Bernard King.
The year was 1984. The Knicks were on the road at Joe Louis Arena for a decisive Game 5. They were underdogs and Isaiah Thomas was electrifying the crowd. But King didn’t flinch – even with the Detroit crowd going nuts.
He poured in 44 points to lead his team to an amazing 127-123 overtime win and a ticket to the Eastern Conference semis against the Celtics.
But what make Bernard King’s performance truly amazing was that it was the fourth straight game of at least 40 points, even with everyone in the world knowing he was getting the ball. Starting with back-to-back 46-point games in Games 2 and 3, King was the best player in the series. He followed that up with a mundane 41 points in Game 4 before lighting the board for 44 in Game 5. Take a trip down memory lane with Marv Albert and John Andraiese, both of whom are still broadcasting NBA games 27 years later.
In 1984, the Celtics were on a playoff run that ended with an electrifying win over the Lakers in Game 7 in the NBA finals. But Boston’s 15th NBA title nearly didn’t happen. King had 43 in New York’s Game 4 win at MSG and 44 more in Game 6 back in New York to force Game 7. The Celtics eventually survived the Knicks in seven fierce games. Sound familiar?
What was it like for Melo on Tuesday night, trying to do for his Knicks teammates what King did 27 years ago?
“It was fun, for the most part,” Anthony said. “We were out there fighting man. My teammates stuck with me, I had confidence in them. It was just a battle. It came down to a couple of plays down the stretch, but for the most part throughout the whole game I think we played fantastic.
“Defensively we did, offensively I kind of had it going tonight. I made other guys better, they felt confident out there when they got the ball to make something happen. KG hit a tough shot over Jared, contested shot. For the most part we played great tonight. We can’t hang our heads over something like this. We’ve got to take this and build on it going back home.”
And Anthony repeated his mantra of Game 1 that the Celtics didn’t do anything special in winning the first two games. They just held serve.
“There were some things when you look back you say ‘We could have done this, we could have done that, we could be up 2-0 if we did some things right,’” Anthony added. “For the most part, we are playing our [butts] off. We’re playing great. For some guys, this is their first time in the playoffs and for them to be stepping up to the plate like that, taking on the challenge against a championship team like the Celtics, we’re doing great. The Celtics didn’t do anything special, they won 2 games on their home court. Now it’s our turn to do the same thing.”
|Irish Coffee: Is Shaq coming back, or isn’t he?||at 12:21 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Shaquille O’Neal will be back. Shaquille O’Neal won’t be back.
Whether or not Shaq will return for the Celtics at any point during these NBA Playoffs is kinda like how I tell myself every morning that I’m definitely going to the gym — and then don’t. Ruled out for Games 1 and 2 with a right calf strain, Shaq remains listed as day-to-day on the injury report. Meanwhile, Celtics president Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers keep telling the media some version of, “He’ll be back; we just don’t know when.”
The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune’s Bill Burt cited an NBA source who believes Shaq is done for the season. Or does he? Here’s the exact phrasing from Burt’s story:
Shaquille O’Neal may have worn a Boston Celtics uniform for the last time.
In what would be a crippling blow to their chances of winning a title, the Celtics are going forward as if the affable center won’t be returning to team for the playoffs, according to an NBA source.
It means the other O’Neal — Jermaine, who has had knee problems since opening day, will be the go-to big man with Glen Davis and Nenad Krstic as his backups.
The Celtics came to this conclusion after Shaq failed to complete one simple sprint up and down the court during a “conditioning test” on Saturday, before he limped off the court in Waltham.
The Celtics held out a slim hope Shaq would be able to make his return in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Knicks or possibly in the conference semifinals, if they advanced.
“If he were to come back, it would have to be a miraculous recovery,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “And at his age (he turned 39 on March 6) and physical condition, the Celtics have planned accordingly.”
|Kevin Garnett shifts gears into clutch||at 12:50 am ET|
In the final seconds of close Celtics games over the last four years, you remember Ray Allen coming off screens and lord knows you remember the Paul Pierce isolations. But the Kevin Garnett hook shots? Not so much.
Less than a week ago, Jackie MacMullan wrote a piece that detailed Garnett’s lack of aggressiveness down the stretch of tight contests. Somewhere in the middle of it was this note: “In his time with the Celtics, KG has not attempted a single shot in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime in a playoff game.”
Well, scratch that off Garnett’s to-do list.
In Game 2 of their first-round series, the Celtics trailed the Knicks by one with 19 seconds remaining when Rajon Rondo inbounded to Garnett out of the timeout. The Celtics forward proceeded to back Jared Jeffries down on the dribble, turn to his left and toss in a hook shot in the paint. The basket gave the Celtics a 94-93 advantage with 13 seconds left.
“It was interesting,” said Ray Allen, who hit the game-winning bucket in Game 1. “The play wasn’t even for Kevin the way we ran it. Rondo threw it to him, and I’m glad he did, because that proves big for us going into the next game. Most of our plays have several different options on it, but it involved me, Paul [Pierce] and Kevin at some point. And he saw the matchup.”
You score 14 points in the first quarter, 18 in the first half and 30 for the game. You’re the point guard and your team just won a playoff game to go up 2-0 in a best-of-7 series. You’d think you’d be pretty pleased.
Not Rajon Rondo on Tuesday night and not the Celtics.
“We’re not happy with the win but obviously you’ll take any one you get in the playoffs,” Rondo said in his patented calm tone. “But we know we have a lot to improve on. There are so many areas.”
Like rebounding, where the Knicks beat the C’s, 53-37, including 20-9 on the offensive glass.
“They destroyed us on the glass,” he said. “Obviously, without Amar’e [Stoudemire], we had to help a lot, but we’ve got to crack back, and our guys have to do a better job of boxing out the bigs. As a team overall, we have to do a better job at rebounding the ball, that’s been our problem throughout the season. We escaped tonight, another one, but nevertheless, we got the win.”
But it wasn’t all bad. As a matter of fact in the first quarter, Rondo showed he was ready to take over the game, scoring 14 points, including 12 on lay-ups as the Celtics were getting out in transition at will against the Knicks thanks to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
“I just thought, Kevin and Paul gave me great outlet passes and I tried to attack the rim,” Rondo said. “I think I tried to attack Game 1 but my layups were getting blocked and I didn’t make a couple. But tonight I made them, I stayed aggressive, I tried to expose them because I don’t think they did a great job getting back in transition. But they made an adjustment, in the second half I tried to go to my guys, Paul, Ray [Allen], and Kevin.”
The tempo was so fierce at one point of the first quarter, Rondo signaled to coach Doc Rivers that he needed a break. Who could blame him? He was running up and down the court at will thanks to the Knicks and their ole’ transition defense.
“I just got tired in the first quarter, at like three minutes, I think it was like 3:59 actually, because like I said I was trying to push the pace and I got a little winded,” Rondo said.
But Rondo made a point of saying he didn’t tire in the second half when the game was on the line. Rondo wound up playing 42 minutes, just three less than captain Pierce.
“I told Doc to give me a rest. As soon as I was ready I came back in to start the second quarter, but after that my wind was fine. D-West came in and gave me a little breather off the ball. I’m comfortable playing the minutes I’m playing. It was just that first session was like a track meet.”
|Amar’e Stoudemire’s back picks a really bad time to act up||04.19.11 at 11:49 pm ET|
Knicks superstar power forward Amar’e Stoudemire couldn’t have picked a worse time to experience back spasms for the first time in his career. After tweaking his back during a dunk in warmups, Stoudemire said he felt the twinge get worse during the first half.
He was limited to 2-of-9 shooting in 18 minutes and finished with just four points as the Knicks couldn’t quite overcome his absence in a 96-93 loss to the Celtics Tuesday night at TD Garden.
“I believe it happened in warmups,” said Stoudemire, who had to stand for his postgame press conference because his back was still so tight. “I touched the top of the glass with my left hand and dunked it with my right. I think that’s when I felt it really get tight on me.
“I could hardly move. I was trying to play through it. I went to the trainers and staff, was getting worked on there before the game, right before the national anthem I got up and stood up for the anthem and tried to get a little more work done. I just couldn’t get quite totally loose. I tried to play on it and pushed through it, but for the most part, I played the first quarter and second quarter, after that it was a sharp pain and I couldn’t continue.”
Stoudemire said this was the first time in his career he experienced the injury and is hoping treatment in the next two days will have him ready when the series resumes Friday at Madison Square Garden.
“I never had back spasms before, so I guess it’s just a normal back spasm,” he said. “Take time for it to relax, but I should be ready for Game 3. I’m not sure, we’ll see how it goes tomorrow, and the next day, and then I’m pretty, sure hopefully I’ll be ready to go by Friday.”
Stoudemire watched from the TV in the locker room as Carmelo Anthony almost single-handedly led the Knicks to victory.
“Yeah I was getting treatment for the full second half,” Stoudemire said. “I watched the game on the TV screen, but meanwhile I was getting treatment the whole time. I was trying to loosen up the back, trying to get ready to come out there in the second half or third quarter. I just couldn’t get the back to release hardly any. It took awhile for me to get comfortable, still in somewhat pain now. But hopefully, in the next few days, it will release.
“They played great,” Stoudemire said of Anthony. “Carmelo shot the ball extremely well tonight, something that we needed. And the rest of the guys stepped up to play, they played great tonight. That’s something that we need, hopefully some confidence from tonight’s game will grow for Friday.”
With the Celtics trailing 93-92 with 19 seconds remaining, Celtics coach Doc Rivers called for Kevin Garnett to post up Jared Jefferies on the block. He did, backed down Jefferies and made a hook shot over him with 13 seconds to play. Moments later, on a loose ball that Jefferies lost underneath the Knicks basket, Garnett dove to the floor, grabbed the ball and called timeout with four seconds left. Delonte West made a pair of free throws with 0.6 seconds on the clock, and the C’s held on for a 96-93 victory to take a 2-0 lead against the Knicks.
The C’s spoiled a remarkable 42-point, 17-rebound effort from Carmelo Anthony, who singlehandedly kept the Knicks in the game after losing Amar’e Stoudemire to back spasms. The Celtics’ Big Four all reached double figures, led by Rajon Rondo‘s 30 points and Paul Pierce‘s 20.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rondo attacks early: With Chauncey Billups (strained left knee) sidelined and Toney Douglas starting for the Knicks, Rondo went to work. He released on New York field-goal attempts, and his Celtics teammates hit him in stride on the break for layup after layup. As Rondo outscored the Knicks 12-11 in the first 7:08, Douglas committed two fouls — leaving the visitors extremely thin at the point guard position. Generally, when Rondo attacks in transition, the Celtics succeed, and Game 2 was no different.
Rondo attacks late: While Anthony was busy scoring at a ridiculous pace or drawing enough defenders to open up opportunities for his teammates, Rondo kept the Celtics in the game during the fourth quarter. Once again taking advantage of the Douglas matchup, he scored three straight layups midway through the fourth that either tied the game or gave the Celtics a late lead. And he even added a 17-foot jump shot that put the Celtics up 88-86 advantage with four and a half minutes remaining.
Denying Stoudemire the ball: Whether it was Stoudemire’s comments before the game or the back spasms that forced him to leave the game in the second quarter, Garnett completely neutralized his defensive assignment. In 16 first-half minutes, Stoudemire shot just 2-of-9 from the field and scored four points — a far cry from his 12-of-18, 28-point performance in Game 1.
Between the first two games of the series, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the game plan was to deny Stoudemire the ball, thus stopping him before he ever gets going. The Celtics attempted to do that in the first game but couldn’t until Garnett succeeded in the final minutes. Game 2 was an entirely different story — whether it was all Garnett’s defense or part that/part injury.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Melo being Melo … and then some: After being called out by just about every New York media outlet after his 1-of-11 shooting performance in the second half of the Knicks’ Game 1 loss, Anthony returned to his All-Star form. Considering he was the only member of the Knicks’ Big Three left standing, the Knicks desperately needed him to rise to the occasion. And he did, scoring 13 straight points during one second-half stretch and finishing with 42 points (the highest individual total against the C’s this season), 17 rebounds and six assists on the night.
Another lost opportunity: After taking an early 10-point lead in the first quarter, the Celtics had a golden opportunity to make Game 2 a lot more comfortable than Game 1, especially considering the Billups/Stoudemire injuries and the fact that Landry Fields appeared completely lost. But the bench couldn’t hold the advantage that the starters staked them to, and the gap closed to 23-21 after one quarter. It got worse, too, as the Billups-less, Stoudemire-less Knicks took a 45-44 lead into the break, thanks to Anthony’s 16 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.
Knicks wipe the glass clean: How did the Knicks shoot just 35.6 percent from the field for the game and actually lead a playoff game in the final minute? Well, they grabbed 20 of their 53 rebounds on the offensive end. By contrast, the Celtics had 37 rebounds (9 offensively). It’s been a problem all season long for the Celtics, and continued to be in Game 2 — despite facing a Knicks team that’s been poor in that respect.